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The story of Acætes has abundance of nature in all the parts of it, as well in the description of his own parentage and employment, as in that of the sailors characters and manners. But the short speeches scat. tered up and down in it, which make the Latin very natural, cannot appear so well in our language, which is much more stubborn and unpliant; and therefore are but as so many rubs in the story, that are still turning the narration out of its proper course. The transformation at the latter end is wonderfully beautiful,
Ovid has two very good fimilies on Pentheus, where he compares him to a river in a former story, and to a war-horse in the present.
VIRGIL may be reckoned the first who introduced
three new kinds of poetry among the Romans, which he copied after three of the greatest masters of Greece: Theocritus and Homer have still disputed for the advantage over him in Pastoral and Heroics, but I think all are unanimous in giving him the precedence to Hefiod in his Georgics. The truth of it is, the sweetness and rusticity of a Pastoral cannot be so well exprefa sed in any other tongue as in the Greek, when rightly mixed and qualified with the Doric dialect; nor can the majesty of an heroic poem any where appear so well as in this language, which has a natural greatness in it, and can be often rendered more deep and sonorous by the pronunciation of the Ionians. But in the middle style, where the writers in both tongues are on a level, we see how far Virgil has excelled all who have written ip the same way with him.
There has been abundance of criticism spent on Virgil's Pastorals and Æneids; but the Georgics are a subject which none of the critics have sufficiently taken into their consideration ; most of them passing it over in filence, or casting it under the same head with Pastoral; a division by no means proper, unless we suppose the style of a husbandman ought to be imitated in a Georgic, as that of a thepherd is in a Pastoral. But
though though the scene of both these poems lies in the same place ; the speakers in them are of quite a different character, since the precepts of husbandry are not to be delivered with the simplicity of a ploughman, but with the address of a poet. No rules therefore, that relate to Pastoral, can any way affect the Georgics, since they fall under that class of poetry, which consists in giving plain and direct instructions to the reader; whether they be moral duties, as those of Theognis and Pythagoras; or philosophical speculations, as those of Aratus and Lucretius; or rules of practice, as those of Hefiod and Virgil. Among these different kind of subjects, that which the Georgics go upon is, I think, the meanest and least improving, but the most pleasing and delightful. Precepts of morality, besides the natural corruption of our tempers, which makes us averse to them, are so abstracted from ideas of sense, that they seldom give an opportunity for those beautiful descriptions and images which are the spirit and life of poetry. Natural philosophy has indeed sensible objects to work upon ; but then it often puzzles the reader with the intricacy of its notions, and perplexes him with the multitude of its disputes. But this kind of poetry I am now speaking of, addresses itself wholly to the imagination : It is altogether conversant among the fields and woods, and has the most delightful part of nature for its province. It raises in our minds a pleasing variety of scenes and landskips, whilst it teaches us; and makes the dryest of its precepts look like a description. “A “ Georgic therefore is some part of the science of hus.
bandry put into a pleafing dress, and set off with all “ the beauties and embellishments of poetry.” Now since this science of husbandry is of a very large extent, the poet shews his skill in singling out such precepts to proceed on, as are useful, and at the same time most capable of ornament. Virgil was so well acquainted with this ret, tliat to set off his first Georgic, he has run into a set of precepts, which are almost foreign to his subject, in that beautiful account he gives us of the signs in nature, which precede the changes of the weather.
And if there be so much art in the choice of fit precepts, there is much more required in the treating of them ; that they may fall-in after each other by a natural unforced method, and shew themselves in the best and most advantageous light. They should all be so finely wrought together in the same piece, that no coarse seam may discover where they join; as in a curious brede of needle-work, one colour falls away by such just degrees, and another rises fo insensibly, that we see the variety, without being able to distinguish the total vanishing of the one from the first appearance of the other. Nor is it fufficient to range and dispose this body of precepts into a clear and easy method, unless they are delivered to us in the most pleasing and agreeable manner; for there are several ways of conveying the same truth to the mind of man; and to choose the pleasantest of these ways, is that which chiefly distinguishes poetry from prose, and makes Virgil's rules of hufbandry pleasanter to read than Varro's. Where the
prose writer tells us plainly what ought to be done, the poet often conceals the precept in a description, and represents his countryman performing the action in which he would instruct his reader. Where the one sets out, as fully and distinctly as he can, all the parts of the truth, which he would communicate to us; the other singles out the most pleasing circumstance of this truth, and to conveys the whole in a more diverting manner to the understanding. I shall give one instance out of a multitude of this nature that might be found in the Georgics where the reader may see the different ways Virgil has taken to express the same thing, and how much pleasanter every manner of expression is, than the plain and direct mention of it would have been. It is in the second Georgic, where he tells us what trees will bear grafting on each other.
“ Et fæpe alterius ramos impune videmus “ Vertere in alterius, mutatamque infita mala “ Ferre pyrum, et prunis lapidosa rubescere corna.
Steriles platani malos gessere valentes, “ Caltaneæ fagos, ornufque incanuit albo “ Flore pyri : glandemque fues fregere sub ulmis.
Nec longum tempus : & ingens " Exiit ad cælum ramis felicibus arbos; “ Miraturque novas frondes et non fua poma."
Here we see the Poet considered all the effects of this union between trees of different kinds, and took notice of that effect which had the most surprize, and by confequence the most delight in it, to express the capacity that was in them of being thus united. This way of